Ashmolean Museum Oxford

Colour Revolution : Victorian Art, Fashion & Design Catalogue

Edited by Charlotte Ribeyrol, Matthew Winterbottom & Madeline Hewitson


This book presents a dazzling version of the Victorian world, surprisingly one of the most colourful periods in history.

It dispels the myth that the Victorian era was a dreary landscape of ‘dark satanic mills’ and cities choked with smog. Instead, it shows how developments in art, science and technology resulted in an explosion of colour that was embraced by artists, designers and regular people of the nineteenth century.

While the coal industry blackened Britain’s landscape, aniline dyes, a by-product of coal-tar, introduced a rainbow of possibilities to Victorian wardrobes. Such scientific advances were celebrated in one of the most important cultural events of the nineteenth century, the International Exhibition of 1862. It brought together examples of British, colonial and scientific products under one roof and it was the first time synthetic anilines were shown to an international audience.

No book on Victorian colour-culture can omit the revolutionary impact of photography and electricity. Some of the first innovators were women and Colour Revolution features some of the most influential pioneers of photography including Anna Atkins (1799–1871), and Sarah Angelina Acland (1849–1930). The book closes with another pioneer, the Electric Fairy: Loïe Fuller (1862–1928).

Several essays in the catalogue offer new research into key chromatic events of the period including the 1862 International Exhibition.

The catalogue accompanies an exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum from 21 September 2023 to 18 February 2024.


Book contains: 256 pages.

Dimensions: 22 x 28cm